N. Korea officials return to liaison office after abrupt pullout

(Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2018, shows the opening ceremony for the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea.)

SEOUL, Kyodo - North Korean officials returned to an inter-Korean liaison office in the country’s border city of Kaesong on Monday after their sudden pullout three days earlier, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

The officials were working as usual Monday and “thus the South and North held consultation at the liaison office this morning and will continue to operate the office as usual," the ministry said in a statement.

“We came to do our shift as usual today," a North Korean staff member was quoted as telling South Korean members at the office.

On Friday, North Korean officials who were working at the liaison office left on short notice, saying they were ordered to do so. The sudden withdrawal prompted the South Korean government to hold a meeting of its National Security Council on the matter.

It remains unclear why the North Korean officials pulled out, but the North Korean side told the South Koreans that there is no change in its stance that the liaison office should be run as agreed on between the two Koreas, ministry spokesman Paik Tae Hyun told reporters.

A ministry official said four or five North Korean officials are at the office now, as opposed to about 10 until last week, meaning office operation has only been partially normalized.

“We were waiting for their return and the operation of the office to be normalized, and North Korea seems to have reacted to that," the official said.

The office was launched in September in an atmosphere of reconciliation that had developed between the two Koreas since early 2018. Regular meetings had been held between the two sides.

But since summit talks between North Korea and the United States ended without a deal in late February, no meetings had been held. North Korea has repeatedly expressed frustration with the lack of progress in joint economic projects with South Korea due to ongoing international sanctions. (Kyodo)

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